© Noor Muhammad/MSF

Pakistan

Improving healthcare for mothers, children and newborns remains a priority for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Pakistan. We also treat infectious diseases and respond to natural disasters.

Stretching from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan is one of the most populous countries in the world, with more than 169 million people living within its borders.

Home to what are thought to be some of the earliest human settlements, modern Pakistan was born out of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 and has faced both domestic political upheavals and regional confrontations.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first began working in Pakistan in 1986 and since then has assisted in numerous natural disasters and provided healthcare to victims of conflict.

Today, women and children in particular suffer from the lack of access to healthcare and there is an overwhelming need for neonatal care.  

Our activities in Pakistan are funded solely by donations from individuals, with no institutional or government contributions.

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MSF’s work in Pakistan: 2019

The availability of free, high-quality medical care for women and children is limited, especially in rural areas of Pakistan. Even when services are available, many people cannot afford them. We provide reproductive, neonatal and paediatric care at five different locations in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Local communities, Afghan refugees and people who cross the border from Afghanistan to seek medical assistance benefit from MSF’s comprehensive 24-hour emergency obstetric services, which include surgery and referrals for complicated cases.

Azra Begum, an MSF Health Promoter, gives a session on high-risk pregnancies to local women from the community, DHQ hospital, Timergara.

In addition, we run an inpatient and outpatient therapeutic feeding programme for severely malnourished children in Balochistan. We treated 910 severely malnourished children in our inpatient feeding programmes and admitted 10,200 malnourished children to our outpatient therapeutic feeding programmes in four districts across the province in 2019. Our teams manage trauma cases in Chaman, a town on the border with Afghanistan.

In 2019, we also ran the emergency department in Timergara hospital, Lower Dir district. But after over 10 years of services, MSF announced that we would gradually hand over our activities in Lower Dir to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department by January 2021.

 

 

Mother and child health in Balochistan 

In Chaman district headquarters hospital, near the border with Afghanistan, our teams work with the Ministry of Health to provide reproductive, neonatal and paediatric healthcare. We also manage trauma cases in the emergency room and offer inpatient and outpatient nutritional support for malnourished children under the age of five. These services are available to local residents, Afghan refugees and people who cross the border seeking medical assistance. 

A newborn baby at an MSF facility in Dera Murad Jamali is swaddled by her grandmother before being taken home. Balochistan, Pakistan, November 2018.

In Kuchlak, a town in Quetta district that is home to a large number of Afghan refugees, we manage a health centre offering outpatient treatment for children, including nutritional support for children under the age of five, wound dressing services for children under 12, 24-hour basic emergency obstetric care and psychosocial counselling. Patients with emergency obstetric complications are referred to Quetta. 

We also support an inpatient therapeutic feeding programme for severely malnourished children, the general paediatric and neonatal wards, and reproductive healthcare in Dera Murad Jamali district headquarters hospital.

We set up a water treatment plant at the hospital to ensure availability of clean water for patients, their caregivers and medical staff. In the eastern districts of Jaffarabad and Naseerabad, our teams treated over 9,000 malnourished children through a network of outreach sites and mobile clinics. 

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Emergency, maternal and neonatal care in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 

Around 75 per cent of the patients at the women’s hospital in Peshawar come from rural areas of the district and what were previously known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Neonatal mortality rates are high, and we focus on high-risk pregnancies and people with reduced access to care. We also provide comprehensive 24-hour emergency obstetric care. In 2018, our team assisted almost 4,900 births and admitted 600 newborns to the neonatal unit. 

Responding to emergencies

MSF assists the Pakistani authorities with emergency response preparedness in case of disease outbreaks or natural disasters. In 2019, during a dengue fever outbreak across the country, we supported the health authorities through awareness campaigns and donations of mosquito nets, logistical and medical equipment and insecticide.

We also donated medical equipment to a hospital in Pakistani-administered Kashmir after it was damaged by an earthquake in September.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis 

MSF runs four treatment centres for cutaneous leishmaniasis. This neglected parasitic tropical disease is transmitted by the bite of a sandfly and characterised by disfiguring and painful skin lesions. Although not life-threatening, the severe physical disfigurement can lead to stigmatisation and discrimination. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is endemic in parts of Pakistan, but treatment is either unavailable or too expensive for most people.

Consequently, they rely largely on international organisations such as MSF for care. As well as diagnosis and treatment, our teams offer health education and psychological counselling. During an outbreak of the disease in 2019, we donated medical supplies to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Department of Health.

Hepatitis C 

Pakistan has one of the highest prevalence rates of hepatitis C globally. In Machar Colony, a densely populated slum in Karachi, MSF teams provided nearly 8,740 consultations for hepatitis C, which included 1,410 new patients who were enrolled on treatment.

The clinic provides diagnosis, treatment, psychological counselling and health promotion activities at a basic healthcare level in a decentralised model of care introduced by MSF in 2015.

find out more in our international activity report >

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